Google Apps, Hangouts, and messaging

tl;dr: Here’s how to make the Hangouts app work on your Google Apps account.

I’ve been a long-time paying Google Apps user for (since at least 2008, according to my mail archive).

Yesterday, I discovered that my use of Google Apps has prevented a friend from contacting me. He’d been cheerfully messaging me using Google Hangouts, and the messages had been going no-where.

I fired up Google Hangouts on my iPhone and received the error “The domain administrator has disabled text messages”:

Google Hangouts Messages Disabled

Since I am the domain administrator, this came as rather a surprise to me. I figured it would be simple and straightforward to turn messages back on. Not so much.

Here’s what to do.

We start our journey on “Turn on Hangouts chat”, which tells us:

“Google Apps accounts created before July 2015, however, may include Google Talk. To give users more chat features, such as the ability to share photos or have larger group conversations, turn on Hangouts chat instead.”

Well, alright. And then:

Ready to set up Hangouts for your team? Follow our easy Quick Start Guide.

The Quick Start guide page has a link for apps users:

Google Apps quickstart guide

Awesome! I’m an apps user! Let’s click it. This takes us to “Set up your Google Apps services with these guides”. Scrolling down the page is a section on Hangouts, with a link to “Learn more about Hangouts setup”:

Google Apps Hangouts

Clicking on the “Learn more about Hangouts setup” link takes us back to the Quick Start Guide. Not much use. There’s also those “View in browser” and “Download PDF” buttons. It turns out these link to a presentation on how to set things up.

Feature request: Google, please label those buttons “View a presentation on setup”, “Download a presentation on setup” or something similarly meaningful.

So, on to the presentation. It’s 21 slides and states you’ll need 30 minutes to get set up:

Google Hangouts Setup presentation

There are at least two things wrong with this:

  • Presentations are a horrible way to provide documentation
  • 30 minutes to enable a feature? Seriously?

Very enterprisey, but let’s work through it. The first instruction is to click “Apps” in my Google Apps admin dashboard:

Google Apps setup instructions

And here’s what my dashboard looks like:

Google Apps Admin

The promised “Apps” item on my dashboard is missing. I found it by clicking on “More Controls” at the bottom of the home screen, and adding the Apps button.

Feature request: Google, please clarify your instructions for people that don’t have Apps on their home screen.

I followed the presentation to find the advanced settings, and found the magic option to turn on Hangouts chat (it was previously set to “Google Talk only”):

Enable Google Hangouts

And now Hangouts actually works on my iPhone.

Feature request: Google please just put this simple step on a web page somewhere and link to it from the app. Or better yet, the app should know I’m logged in as the domain administrator, so instead of telling me it’s disabled, give me an option to enable it from right within the app.

Hurrah, I now have another walled garden for messaging!

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